Talking trash: Boss Your Toss campaign encourages students to recycle


Robert Dillon

The Iowa State recycling coordinator set up an 8-foot-tall pile of trash as part of an America Recycles Day campaign.

A pristine layer of untouched snow decorated Iowa State’s campus as the first snowflakes of the season fell onto cars, trees and an 8-foot-tall pile of trash sitting on the lawn of Parks Library Tuesday morning.

A 690-pound pyramid of trash sat on display in front of the library as part of a campaign for America Recycles Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The campaign’s goal was to “educate, engage and empower students, faculty and staff,” Steve Kohtz, Iowa State’s recycling coordinator, said.

The display of trash provided a visual representation of the waste sent to landfills each year. The average college student accumulates 690 pounds of trash within one academic year, according to Kohtz.

“I thought [the display] was really creative,” Layk Nollen, a junior studying history, said. “It was very interesting and something I wasn’t expecting.”

Kohtz requested trash from five different campus buildings and weighed each bag himself to make the display. It took him a week to gather the trash.

“I was surprised at how much I had to do to create that waste,” Kohtz said. “Without us knowing or thinking about it, we throw a lot away.”

If a student properly recycled, 230 pounds, or one-third, of this waste would avoid the landfill, Kohtz said.

However, to have this effect, waste items would have to be properly recycled. A large portion of Iowa State’s recycled waste does not make it through the recycling process because it is contaminated with food and liquid.

A few drops of coffee left inside a cup can contaminate an entire recycling bin.

To educate passing students, Kohtz set up a “What Recycles?” game as part of his campaign.

Students had the opportunity to play “What Recycles?” at a recycling campaign outside Parks Library. (Katelyn Squiers)

The game pieces consisted of roughly 30 waste items commonly found in a college dorm. Some of the items included pizza boxes, an empty container of Planters peanuts, plastic silverware and a Febreze spray bottle.

To play the game, students needed to guess which items were recyclable. Players who identified five correct items could victoriously walk away with a free magnet of their choice.

Nollen selected a “Boss Your Toss” magnet he described as “vintage” after he and his friend successfully named five recyclable items. “I Talk Trash” and “Boss Your Toss” Cy magnets were also available.

“Boss Your Toss” is a new recycling campaign Kohtz initiated this fall. Its purpose is to help people understand they can take charge of where they throw their waste.

Another student guessed that an empty bag of chips could be recycled, but this was not one of the eligible items. The grease and oil from the chips would interfere with the recycling process because it would break down the new material created from the recycled waste.

To alleviate the amount of waste and preserve the landfill, Kohtz hopes people will choose to properly dispose of items that are eligible for recycling.

“We are creating a vault of waste,” Kohtz said. “I don’t like seeing the Earth used that way, and I think that we can be more conscious of that and be more sustainable in that sense.”

Additional information on the Boss Your Toss campaign can be found on the Inside Iowa State website.